Defence ministry calls Rafale controversy ‘unnecessary’: Key developments

New Delhi: In addition to its repeated assertion by government that it was Dassault who chose Reliance defence as its India partner for offsets in the Rafale Deal, the defence ministry issued a fresh statement on Saturday reiterating its claim.

The ministry stated that unnecessary controversies are being created in response to statement made by former French President Francois Hollande about selection of Reliance Defence as the offset partner of Dassault Aviation – the firm that manufactures Rafale fighter aircraft.

On Friday, Hollande revealed that the choice to select Reliance Defence as the offset partner was made by the Indian government and France had no option but to go ahead with it. He said this in an exclusive interview to French journal Mediapart.

Here are the key developments in the controversy:

Defence ministry calls the controversy “ unnecessary”

The defence ministry said that the government of India has stated earlier and reiterates that it had no role in the selection of Reliance Defence as the offset partner of Dassault Aviation. The ministry alleged that an unnecessary controversy is being sought to be created following media reports on Francois Hollande statements. It said the reported statement of Hollande needs to be seen in its full context – where the French media has raised issues of conflict of interest involving persons close to the former president i.e. his partner Julie Gaye. (Anil Ambani’s Reliance Defence reportedly invested in Gaye’ film).

Rahul on attacking spree

Congress chief Rahul Gandhi continued his tirade against PM Modi on Saturday and termed the multi-million dollar jet deal as a “surgical strike” on Indian defence forces. “The PM and Anil Ambani jointly carried out a One Hundred & Thirty Thousand Crore, SURGICAL STRIKE on the Indian Defence forces. Modi Ji you dishonoured the blood of our martyred soldiers. Shame on you. You betrayed India’s soul,” he tweeted on Saturday morning. Later in the day, he addressed a press conference wherein he said: “former French president Francois Hollande is calling the Prime Minister of India a thief” and that PM needs to break his silence.

Gandhi family ‘mother of corruption’: RS Prasad

In response to Rahul’s continued attack, senior BJP minister Ravi Shankar Prasad said that the Congress chief is playing into the hands of India’s enemies by insisting upon disclosure of the entire weapons system of the Rafale aircraft to be purchased by the IAF. While Prasad termed PM Modi as “a symbol of honesty”, he added that Rahul was chosen as the party president because of his family rather than with his “talent or ability”. Calling the Grand old party as the mother of corruption, Prasad said that the country should not expect anything from the Congress chief “who is out on bail with his mother on charges of corruption”.

Commenting on the controversy over Reliance’s involvement in the deal, Prasad cited a February 2012 media report which stated that Reliance Industries had signed a pact with Dassault Aviation for partnering in the defence and homeland security system in Asia’s third-largest economy. “There is evidence that a proper MoU existed between Dassault and Reliance,” he said.

‘This is Dassault Aviation’s choice’

Earlier in the day, the French jet manufacturer — Dassault Aviation –- claimed that it was the company’s choice to enter into a partnership with Anil Ambani’s Reliance Group, in accordance to “Make in India” policy. “This offsets contract is delivered in compliance with the Defence Procurement Procedure (DPP) 2016 regulations. In this framework, and in accordance with the policy of Make in India, Dassault Aviation has decided to make a partnership with India’s Reliance Group. This is Dassault Aviation’s choice,” the company said.

French government not involved

Following former French president Francois Hollande’s revelation the French government on Friday night clarified that it was not involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners. The French government stated that their role was just to ensure the delivery and quality of the aircraft. “The French government is in no manner involved in the choice of Indian industrial partners who have been, are being, or will be selected by French companies,” a statement by the French government said.